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More Korean High Schoolers Studying Abroad Return to Korea for College

More Korean High Schoolers Studying Abroad Return to Korea for College

Posted September. 24, 2005 07:12,   


In June, 2004, Park (20), a graduate of the prestigious Madeira high school in McLean, Virginia, relinquished her Ivy League admission and chose Yonsei University Underwood International College instead.

Park’s SAT scores of 1350 ranked near the top and got her accepted into renowned Smith College. Many dissuaded her, but Park insisted, “the teaching faculty and students are outstanding and I thought it would be advantageous to work abroad with a Korean background, so I made my decision.”

The “reverse study abroad” phenomenon is bringing back the Korean graduates of famous foreign high schools to Korean colleges. Students who attended top-notch foreign high schools are also transferring to Korean high schools in order to apply to foreign Ivy League schools.

The Yonsei University Underwood International College that selects 58 freshmen this year saw 702 applicants. Of the applicants, 25 percent graduated from foreign high schools and 25 percent were Korean high school students who transferred from foreign high schools.

Ewha Womans University Department of International Studies is no exception. Every year, the number of applicants is increasing. In 2004, 350 applied for a freshmen class of 56, 2005 drew in 408 for an enrolling class of 73, and for 2006, 501 candidates tried out to become one of the lucky 74 freshmen. Most of the freshmen were graduates of foreign middle and high schools, or students from abroad who transferred to Korean schools just before graduation.

This kind of reverse study abroad is happening due to the vast funding that some private universities are pouring into international studies departments to obtain American Ivy League professors and curriculums, and because more and more students are weighing the advantages of entering international society as Korea’s portion of the world economy is increasing.

Yonsei University’s Underwood International College has called in world-class scholars, such as the winner of the 2002 Nobel Prize in Chemistry, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology professor Kurt Wuethrich, Stanford University professor David Brady, Cornell University professor Naoki Sakai, and secretary-general of the OECD Donald Johnston.

Reverse study abroad is limited to special-purpose high schools, and is interpreted as a move that is advantageous in attending reputed foreign colleges.

Lee (18), who transferred to second-year Korean Minjok Leadership Academy last year, previously attended the 11th grade at Egypt Cairo American College (CAC). With 150 students for each grade, the CAC is known as Egypt’s finest school, with 20 to 30 students enrolling in American Ivy Leagues each year.

Famous American colleges, in addition to a moderate level of English and a certain level of academics, favor students who have various cultural experiences.

A recent first-year transfer student at the Hankuk Academy of Foreign Studies, Seoh (16) formerly attended the prestigious American high school Phillips Academy Andover, a school famous for alumni such as American president George W. Bush.

According to the Ministry of Education and Human Resources Development, 979 students transferred to Korean high schools while attending foreign high schools in 2002, 1391 students in 2003, 1755 in 2004, and is on the rise, reaching 1065 students this year for the first semester alone.

Chin-Ku Lee sys1201@donga.com